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Should Pettitte, Matsui stay or go?
New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and team President Randy Levine said it was not the right time to discuss the plans for next season. When that last out was made last Wednesday evening in the Bronx, Johnny Damon and Hideki Mastsui could have seen their last days in pinstripes.
Yes the Yankees deserve the right to cherish and enjoy their nine-year futility to get there again, the right to call them world champions of baseball, Number 27 the most for any professional sports franchise. But in baseball, as we all know, it is getting harder to build a dynasty and win consecutive championships.
As they received their Keys to the City on the steps of City Hall, owner Hal Steinbrenner and manager Joe Girardi made their commitment to the fans that they will be in the same place next year. Easier said than done, as they are well aware that the economics of baseball will keep them competitive, but for how long?
Matsui, the World Series MVP has been regulated to a designated hitter role, playing with two wobbly knees that present an issue. Damon, who had a season for the ages in the Bronx gets a year older. The issue is will the Yankees be willing to give multi million dollar contracts to a team that looks to get younger and not older?
Matsui and Damon become the speculation as a short off-season begins. Spring training convenes down in Tampa Florida in about 94 days. Sandwiched in between are Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and pitcher Andy Pettitte. Now with five World Series rings they are the core of four so often discussed and associated with New York Yankees championship history.
Pettitte showed he is valuable as a postseason pitcher. Now the all-time leader with 18 wins pitching the clinching games against the Twins in the ALDS, Angels in the ALCS and getting the win in the big one over the defending champion Phillies. He becomes another project for Cashman and company. If not the Yankees, with all of their money will find and purchase another starter to work after CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
There is no telling how much longer age will catch up to that core. Jeter still shows range at shortstop and always has quality at bats as the catalyst leadoff man. Posada overcame his injury-plagued season of 2008, and there was already talk that he could be feeling the pain of a 162 game season and the long postseason.
Does Posada fit in the DH role, assuming Matsui is not re-signed? First base is not an option with Mark Teixiera, one of the half billion dollar acquisitions that Cashman purchased secured there for the long run. Rivera once again put a staple on being the best postseason pitcher of all-time.
Afterwards Rivera revealed he had painful ribs, probably because Girardi had to call on him twice for six-out saves. “I can go another five years,” said Rivera in the victorious and wild celebration, in that Yankees clubhouse early Thursday morning. Truthfully, how much longer can Rivera be this dominating at 40 years of age?
As for Pettitte, he deserves the chance to return that is if Cashman and company make the offer. They took a risk after the disappointing end of 2008 and Pettitte delivered with his one-year deal that included incentives. If Pettitte decides that the fifth ring is enough and returns home to Houston, the Yankees go shopping and become the lead runners to acquire free agent John Lackey of the Angels.
In the equation, again is Joba Chamerlain. He is much better coming out of the pen and if the Yankees play their cards right he could be groomed to be the successor for Rivera as the closer. And Phillip Hughes becomes the other option to start again, in the event Pettitte does not return, or becomes the set up man for Rivera as the Yankees begin their title defense and try and get number 28.
So the process begins now for Cashman and company in the Bronx. Matsui deserves that chance to be a part of possibly building another Yankees dynasty, as does Damon but for how much and how long?
The Yankees are World Champions again and anything less to them is a failure. They have to look at getting younger but why break up the nucleus of this 2009 team that may have been as good as the championship 1998 team that won 114 games?
Even with the Yankees it comes down to baseball economics.